Monday, May 2, 2011

Ironman 1 year later - reflections and advice

It's really hard to believe it's been one year now since I trained for and conqured Ironman.  It was such an incredible journey and race and one I look forward to doing again.  Altough I won't lie, the training scares me.  I didn't know any different the first time around, I figured it'd be hard, but I knew I had to get it done.  Yeah I know those same things now, but for some reason it just seems scarier to me.  Will I really be able to put all that time and those miles in again?  They were hard!
The hundreds of miles indoors on the trainer
With and without children  :)

A TON of swimming.  Was more dedicated to the pool in those 6 months since I have been since high school.  I remember being diligent and committed to the 12x100's on 1:20 set we built up to for 12 weeks.

All the fun that comes along with training for a spring race.  Lots of adverse conditions,

But lots of great friends as support too!
Friends that without I don't know if I would've made it through those 90+ mile rides

The trips to St George (5 of them in total between October and Race day I believe) 
Including the so valuable and now tradition week in SG with Sarah at our great friend Sylvia's house
Being completely wiped out most of the time and enjoying naps with my sweet little one when I could.  I look back at it now and miss doing enough to deserve to be that tired
Peaceful snowy solo training sessions when the sun would grace me with her presence, and sometimes sans sun
And finally conquering those long training weekends with the final one, 110miles on the bike

And then came RACE WEEK!!!
I battled through a run stopping calf injury for the 3 weeks before the race, but finally seemed good to go with days to spare before the race (thank you Muscleworks!).  I was in the best shape of my life.  My sister flew into town and it was time to head south!
That drive was horrible.  Just horrible.  Thank the Lord we made it safe, but it took us almost 7 hours to make a 3.5-4 hour drive.  The kids were great, but it was snowing the entire time between Nephi and Ceder City.  And bad!  Like if we weren't in a city with overhead lights or following closely behind a semi, we couldn't see the lines on the road.  The passenger had to look out their window to guide the driver by the solid white line on the shoulder.  It was scary stuff and hard to believe I was driving down to do and 2.4 mile swim in open water.
But we finally made it down and stayed in such a great house.  Thank you Mom for putting us all up there!!

I enjoyed every second of the atmosphere, the check in, the 5 plastic bags (transitions and SN) they gave me made me giddy!  I studied and studied the athlete guide and course even though I already had for hours and hours before.

Now I'm going to give my advice, I'll bold it.  My big suggestion for all of you getting ready is to have your bags ready to go Thursday night or Friday morning (save perishable stuff).  Even though I knew what was going in the bags, I was up till 11:30pm assembling them, being sure I had every little thing right.  Try to keep your bags simple so you're not digging through a mountain of stuff trying to decide what you need when you're in the middle of the race, but put in what you think you may need.  For the bike SN, it was an extra CO2 and tube, some pringles and a small candy bar in case I felt like I needed a snack, and my new water bottle and flask of First Endurance calories.  For the run SN it was an extra pair of socks (really only necessary if it's going to rain or you pour a TON of water on your legs or you're just prone to blisters), and an additional Liquid Shot flask.  There's plenty of food on course if you want it.

Now come RACE DAY?

I'm going to keep it simple.  Just ENJOY your day!!  That doesn't have to mean loaf it, you can still go hard, but smile.  Smile at other racers, say hi or something when you pass someone, and you'll see their name on their bib, so try to use it sometimes.  Smile at the volunteers and thank them.  Smile at your friends and family when you see them, it's so magical and like a dork I'm starting to choke up just thinking what a great experience this was.  Don't get mad if they aren't at a certain point to cheer you on.  I felt bad that I didn't even acknowledge my sister and husband at the bike into T2 even though I heard them because I was mad they never saw me on the bike.  They got up at 5:30am and got on a shuttle, sat around in a parking lot at a reservoir to see me for 5 minutes maybe, then wait another 2 hours to get out of there and back to their car.  Sure I was sad not to see them on the bike, but they had a busy day too.  Appreciate all your supporters!

Now come the swim, don't be afraid, I was walking into the water, and dear Keena said "don't worry about it!  This is fun!".  Don't worry about the water temp.  There's nothing you can do come race time, just wear that wetsuit and neoprene cap or at least just two laytex caps, let some water in the neck, let it drain back out on land, and start where you're comfortable.  Oh and pre-swim, get there EARLY!  I wanted to take one of the earliest buses but of course it always takes longer to get out the door than you think (and traffic just to get dropped off downtown was bad), so I got there close enough to the race that I was kind of scrambling.  When I do it again, I will be on one of the earliest buses and bring a cheap blanket to huddle down in and just chill out after everything is ready to go.  Another tip - there's a couple volunteer port-o-potties over by the med tent, if it's right before the race and you really have to go, sneak over there  ;)
USE the help in transitions!  I would have never gotten anything on my body after the swim if it wasn't for the help of a wonderful lady in the change tent, they're there, use them!

Bike time - another dear friend and woman I look forward to Debbie Perry emailed me a few days before the race and said "be conservative on the bike, just be conservative".  SO KEY!  Just go out and ride it like a long ride.  Don't push and be huffing and puffing and feeling the burn unless you're going up one of the few big/steep hills.  You don't have to go slow, but there is so much more race left after the bike, that even if you went too slow, I think you'll still have the advantage come run time.    My other key to success was setting an alarm on my Garmin to go off every 15 minutes to tell me to take nutrition.  Now of course this has to be something you've practiced, but hopefully you've practiced taking in calories and/or hydration every 15-20 minutes.  Without the alarm I would have spaced off and not take nearly enough.  And along with taking enough, I put tick marks on my water bottle of EFS calories (only put water in my aero bottle, much easier to refill and sip on) so that I knew I needed to drink x amount of ounces to get x amount of calories every 30 minutes (took Liquid Shot and water on the other 15 min alarms).  Because when I just grab a water bottle I take way less than I should, it usually was 3 swallows for me, 2 more than I'd do if I wasn't thinking about it.
If you screw your nutrition up, it's going to be a hard day, so do something easy and set an alarm or do something like this so you KNOW you get all the calories, hydration, and electrolytes you plan on taking.

That Run, oooh baby, it's a hilly one!  And some people don't like the  double out and back, but I did.  Look at it this way. A) you'll know every inch of where  you're at on that course, you'll know what's coming next, B) you'll see a lot more spectators and racers around you, C) once you're to the first turnaround, you're 1/4 of the way done with the whole run!  That was so helpful to me to know there were really just 4 x 6 mile repeats.  And I knew that in general, once I made it to the turnaround on the bluff, it was mostly downhill.  Then I went up the hills for a second and last time, then it was basically all downhill to the finish!  You may have to really dig in and focus come that last 6-10 miles, don't be afraid to.  All my giddy smiling and thumb uping ended at mile 18.  It was time to focus and that's all I could do.  I just watched the road in front of me and focused on lifting one knee/leg up at a time.  Just get to one aid station at a time, don't think any farther ahead than that if it helps.

And then it comes

The Finish.  Now do me a favor here and listen.  I knew what I was supposed to do for the finish, but it didn't work out great.  Take that last mile at least, at least, and realize you're almost done.  Soak it in, cry if you feel like it, your experience is almost done.  When you get back to main street, look around you and find some open space so you can have you time on that last stretch so Mike Reilly can announce your name and "you're an Ironman!!".  I never got to hear that and it made me a little sad.  Either sprint ahead of someone or slow down and let them go, but get your time in those last 50 yards.  I was and still am SO proud of the accomplishment of finishing that race.  Of course I figured I could finish, but I really did it.  I trained for it, I raced it hard, everything came together, my family was there.
 I did it!

And then, thank your family, get a post race massage, drink water, take in what calories you can, and DON"T go get a concrete from Nelson's and eat the whole thing.  Unless of course you want to spend the rest of your evening in bed feeling worse than during the race  :)  I really look forward to watching the finish line late at night this year, something I wanted to do, but just couldn't physically last year.  I felt bad my night ended an hour or two after I finished.  It was such a magical day, extend it as long as you can!  But like they say, you'll have the glory of Ironman forever, so it all works out.

If something doesn't go right on race day or it was just plain hard, try not to dwell on it.  I dwelt on the fact that I didn't qualify when people who finished behind me did, and you know what, it almost ruined my experience.  But I have nothing but good positive feelings toward Ironman St George 2010 now.  What an amazing day it was, and it will be hard for me to know I can't do it this year.  But I do look forward to watching so many great athletes and so many friends who have put the time and energy into training.
Have a magical day guys!!!


rochelle said...


I love how you summed up your feelings of the race. Great encouragement, and wonderful tips! Thank you for being such a great example and motivator. You're amazing.


Stephanie said...

That was a great post sis! Brought back memories and reminded me once again how much I liked watching you race. You ARE an Ironman!